(1) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THAT PALANTIR. An insurrectionist wants a federal District Court to force the U.S. to adopt an interim government from the history of Middle-Earth: “Paul Davis Cites ‘Lord of the Rings’ in Lawsuit, Declares ‘Gondor Has No King’” – the case is briefed by Law and Crime.
Paul M. Davis, the Texas lawyer who was fired from his in-house counsel job after he recorded himself among a mob at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6, has filed legal documents which set a new floor for legal embarrassment in U.S. jurisprudence. The documents employ a series of awkward references to — and ideas from — the temporary government of the Kingdom of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.
Davis’s lawsuit bombastically attempts to assert that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president and that a rightful heir to that office will someday return. Until then, the case foolishly argues that a federal judge might be able to appoint a group of “stewards” from the cabinet of former President Donald Trump to run most of the government from the White House. That should occur, the lawsuit lawlessly speculates, after the Secret Service escorts Biden and his wife out of the executive residence at the order of a federal judge.
…After a few lines of formalities, a six-page Amended Motion filed Thursday argued yet again for a restraining order.
“Gondor has no King,” the document says in its second paragraph, “to invoke a very appropriate quote from the J.R.R. Tolkien epic classic, ‘Lord of the Rings.’”
A footnote explains the analogy:
During the course of the epic trilogy, the rightful King of Gondor had abandoned the throne. Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as “Aragorn,” occurred at the end of the story. This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington, D.C., a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President, and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People. Accordingly, as set forth in the Proposed Temporary Restraining Order, as a remedy the Court should appoint a group of special masters (the “Stewards”) to provide a check the power of the illegitimate President until this Constitutional Crisis can be resolved through a peaceful legal process of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing and a jury trial on the merits.
(2) INAUGURATION DAY PRESENTS. More examples of the Bernie Sanders meme. First, where he’s dropped into fine art: “Bernie Sanders Stars in Art History’s Greatest Works in New Viral Meme” at ARTnews.
…A cascade of similar images soon followed. The art historian Michael Lobel made a version in which Sanders inside a moody café from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks—itself the subject of one of the more memorable Covid-era memes—and others placed the senator within iconic works by Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, ASCO, Joseph Beuys, and Georges Seurat. (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte with Bernie, anyone?) There was even a version where Sanders appeared seated atop a stylite column that appeared first in a 5th century Byzantine manuscript.
But no version of the newest Sanders joke proved more memorable than one created by the writer R. Eric Thomas, who inset him facing Marina Abramovi? for one famous performance that appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. MoMA picked it up, tweeting, “Bernie is present.” Something about Thomas’s rendition may help explain its charm. In most pictures of The Artist Is Present, Abramovi?’s steely eyes meet her viewer, almost daring anyone who sits before to look away. But in the meme version, Sanders looks away from her, his eyes cast toward the floor. In this meme, there seems to be a willful disregard of something that was construed by many as being great—an anti-establishment spirit that befits Sanders’s own views.
Then, StarTrek.com also ginned up some silly ones: “#BernieBeams into the Captain’s Chair”.
(3) COURT DECIDES AGAINST PARLER. “Amazon can keep Parler offline, judge rules” – the Seattle Times has the story.
… On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said that forcing Amazon to get Parler back online goes against the public interest, given “the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol.”
“That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can — more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped — turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection,” she wrote. “The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.”
Amazon welcomed the judge’s ruling. In a statement, the company issued a rejoinder to critics who have said Amazon infringed on Parler’s First Amendment rights when it suspended Parler’s account.
“This was not a case about free speech,” the statement said. “It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence (and without an effective plan to moderate it).” …
(4) WILL GOOGLE GO? “Google threatens to leave Australia because of new media law” reports the Washington Post.
… The threat is the latest and most intense in a long-running battle that has pitted Australian lawmakers and news organizations against U.S.-based tech giants Google and Facebook. For years, news organizations in Australia have argued they should be paid when Internet companies aggregate news stories on their websites. Google and Facebook say their sites help people find news, and the resulting traffic to news websites is valuable on its own.The proposed media law would force the tech companies to negotiate with media companies on payments for previewing and linking to their content. If they can’t reach a deal, a government regulator would step in to set the rates. That arrangement is untenable, Mel Silva, the head of Google in Australia and New Zealand, said in prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing Friday. …The idea that Google should pay for showing news in its search results is not new. In Spain, Google shut down its news aggregation website in 2014 after the country passed a law requiring online platforms that profit off news links to share their revenue with media companies. Just this week, Google agreed to negotiate payments to French publishers.
In the United States, Google is facing multiple federal and state antitrust lawsuits that allege the company has used its domination of online search to benefit its other businesses and push out competitors.
“It seems very peculiar to me that effectively Google wants to blackmail Australian consumers and policymakers with threats to go ahead and leave this jurisdiction when these discussions are happening all around the world, including in the U.S. itself,” Australian Sen. Andrew Bragg said during the Senate hearing, which was broadcast remotely.
(5) WOTC LITIGATION ENDS. The lawsuit creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filed against Wizards of the Coast last fall was settled without trial in December. “Dragonlance Writers End Lawsuit Against Dungeons & Dragons Maker” reported Comicbook.com.
A surprising lawsuit involving the seminal writers of the Dragonlance novels and the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons has seemingly ended. Last week, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the primary authors behind the popular Dragonlance novels, filed to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit against Wizards of the Coast. Weis and Hickman filed the lawsuit in US District Court earlier this year, alleging that Wizards of the Coast breached a licensing contract to write a trilogy of new Dragonlance books by informing the pair’s publisher that they were no longer moving forward with the books without explanation. The duo, who claimed that a Dragonlance novel was already completed and that substantial work had begun on a second book, sought up to $10 million in damages in the initial lawsuit.
The filing noted that Wizards of the Coast had not formally answered their lawsuit, nor had they filed for a summary judgement. As Weis and Hickman filed for a dismissal without prejudice, the duo could hypothetically re-file their lawsuit at a later date.
(6) QUESTION TIME. Octothorpe is a podcast from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty about science fiction and SF fandom. In episode 23, “A Lot of Foreshadowing”, the three “discuss the recent debate over the Hugo Awards and DisCon III’s approach to the same, before touching on some upcoming fannish events.” One segment is provocatively titled, “Are the Hugos a massive cankerous boil on the Worldcon that just needs to be completely purged?”
(7) FURLAN OBIT. Actress Mira Furlan, who gained fame playing Delenn on Babylon 5 and Danielle Rousseau on Lost, died January 20 at the age of 65. The Variety tribute is here.
Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski gave a deeply emotional eulogy:
… We’ve known for some time now that Mira’s health was failing…I’m not sure that this is the right time or place to discuss the sheer randomness of what happened…and have all been dreading this day. We kept hoping that she would improve. In a group email sent to the cast a while back, I heard that she might be improving.
Then came the call from Peter Jurasik. “I wanted you to know that Goran’s bringing Mira home,” he said.
“Do you mean, he’s bringing her home as in she’s better now, or is he bringing her home as in he’s bringing her home?”
“He’s bringing her home, Joe,” Peter said, and I could hear the catch in his voice as he said it.
And as a family, we held our counsel, and began the long wait, which has now ended.
Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news. The cast members with whom she was especially close since the show’s end will need room to process this moment, so please be gentle if they are unresponsive for a time. We have been down this road too often, and it only gets harder.
Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:
…We have lost a light in our galaxy, but another has gained one. I will miss our talks, our laughs, our deep discussions about Hollywood and life. I will miss our dinners and trips abroad. I will miss the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. I will miss her captivating voice and contagious laughter. I will miss sharing with her one of the most gratifying experiences of my life: the relationship between Sheridan and Delenn.
(8) SAUNDERS APPRECIATION. The New York Times obituary of the famous fantasy writer has appeared: “A Black Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73”. He died last May, and as reported here on January 1, had been buried in an unmarked grave until friends raised money for a headstone. The Times has an extensive obituary with photos and book covers.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.
- January 22, 1984 — Airwolf premiered on CBS where it would run for three seasons before moving to USA for a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who also created Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other great genre series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord and Jean Bruce Scott. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.
- January 22, 2000 — Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.) it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its audience reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born January 22, 1788 – George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know; but, as George Szell said of Glenn Gould, “that nut is a genius”. Wrote fantasy among much else, e.g. “Darkness”, The Giaour, Manfred. It could be said that his rhymes were fantastic – “And sell you, mixed with western sentimentalism, / Some samples of the finest Orientalism” (Beppo, Stanza LI). (Died 1824) [JH]
- Born January 22, 1906 — Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales. If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.) (CE)
- Born January 22, 1925 – Katherine MacLean. Five novels, fifty shorter stories. One Nebula. Guest of Honor at WisCon 1. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. Interviewed in NY Review of SF. (Died 2019) [JH]
- Born January 22, 1934 — Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk series, and in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films. He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy Island, Tales of the Unexpected, Night Gallery, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician series but as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.) (CE)
- Born January 22, 1940 — John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really hurt. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down where he voiced Hazel and The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.) (CE)
- Born January 22, 1951 – Donna Ball, age 70. Eight novels for us as D. Boyd, Rebecca Flanders; ninety all told, with other pen names too. Award-winning dog trainer. [JH]
- Born January 22, 1962 – Alison Spedding, Ph.D., age 59. Author and anthropologist. Three historical-fantasy novels; one science fiction in Spanish; three other novels in Spanish; shorter stories, a play, nonfiction. While living in Bolivia criticized the government; imprisoned, many fellow academics thinking it political; released on a surety. [JH]
- Born January 22, 1972 – Stephen Graham Jones, Ph.D., age 49. Nine novels for us (about The Only Good Indians last year, which caught the attention of the NY Times Book Review, note that SGJ is himself Blackfeet), a dozen others; ninety shorter stories for us, two hundred others. Texas Institute of Letters Award. Stoker Award. Professor of English at Univ. Colorado, Boulder. See this from the ReaderCon 30 Program Book. Special Guest at World Fantasy Con 2020. [JH]
- Born January 22, 1982 – Janci Patterson, age 39. A dozen novels for us, a score of others; some with co-authors including Brandon Sanderson. Customizes Barbie dolls, watches “reality” television. [JH]
(11) SUPER AUCTION ITEM. You have until January 28 to bid on a “Fantastic 1941 Letter Signed by Jerry Siegel, Thanking Sheldon Mayer for Promoting ’Superman’’’. Current bid is $783.
Excellent letter by Jerry Siegel, creator of ”Superman”, thanking comic pioneer Sheldon Mayer for promoting the comic before it was published in ”Action Comics #1” in 1938. Dated 18 September 1941, letter reads in part, ”Dear Sheldon: I may be coming to New York inside a few weeks and I hope we can get together at that time and curse the comic business to our heart’s content.
Again I want to thank you for all you’ve done to help make SUPERMAN what it is. I’m very much afraid that if it weren’t for a chap named Sheldon Mayer, as far as syndication is concerned SUPERMAN might still be gathering dust, and Joe [Shuster] and I would be working for a living…[signed] Jerry”.
Sheldon Mayer was one of the first employees of the McClure Syndicate, headed by comics pioneer Maxwell Gaines. Although many have taken credit for discovering ”Superman”, this letter serves as ultimate confirmation that it was Mayer’s championing of the comic which led to its inclusion in ”Action Comics #1”.
(12) GUNN APPRECIATION. John Kessel has posted some of his correspondence with the late sf author and scholar James Gunn from 2018 on Facebook: showing the advice he gave about a recently published novella.
In the wake of sf writer James Gunn’s death in December, I’ve been thinking of him and what he meant to me. The publication of my novella “The Dark Ride” in this month’s F&SF reminded me that I had sent him a draft of the story and we had this correspondence about it, which helped me to shape the final version.
I thought I’d post these emails just to show how generous and engaged he was even in his late 90s. I’m so glad that I knew him….
(13) CHUCKED OUT THE AIRLOCK. [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] “The queen’s rep in Canada calls it quits after probe into toxic workplace” in Politico. If the Queen is not in Canada, the Governor General is our head of state. Not SFnal in itself but what makes this SF-adjacent is Payette is getting the heave ho over permitting a culture of harassment that included —
Allegations [dating] to the earliest days of her tenure when she would reportedly put staff on the spot to quiz them on outer space, demanding they name every planet or correctly state the distance between the sun and the moon….
Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.
…And last year, CBC News reported that Trudeau’s office failed to check with Payette’s former employees during its vetting process. As it turned out, Payette had resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints of mistreatment of employees, according to the news outlet. She also left the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2017, the year she became governor general, after two internal probes into claims she had verbally harassed staff members.
(14) FINN DE SIECLE. MEL Magazine joins its voice to the continuing uproar: “Finn Deserved Better — And So Did Black ‘Star Wars’ Fans”.
…Later on, in perhaps the most exciting shot of the trailer (at least for me), we see Finn standing in a frozen forest. His eyes are steely, determined. He looks every inch the hero — defiant, ready. He turns on his lightsaber. Its blue glow leaps to life just as we see the villain Kylo Ren and his red lightsaber spitting hot energy from its hilt. All of that tension, all of that conflict, absolutely crackling with dramatic potential. Only for all of it to fizzle away in the three films that followed.
We started with a Black stormtrooper who becomes a conscientious objector, follows his moral compass and joins the rebels to risk his life in order to save the galaxy. Somewhere along the way, though, the filmmakers made that character boring. That’s why Star Wars fans are still so pissed at the great betrayal of Finn. It’s why his name was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, a full year after the final film of the newest trilogy was released in theaters.
That last point is key: Finn deserved better. Hell, we all deserved better. The “we” in this instance is Black sci-fi fans. We’ve had to live on some thin soup from Hollywood for far too long. (Although we do have to give a shout out to Star Trek for Capt. Sisko.) For Blerds like me, we held out a small hope that it might be different this time. That Star Wars might finally move on from its Victorian-Nazi melodrama past and embrace the diversity of our moment. Specifically, by creating a credible Black hero.
The first time Star Wars added a Black character, we got a space pimp. Lando Calrissian felt like he’d escaped from a Blaxploitation film or a 1970s malt liquor commercial. But at least he was cool — paper thin, but undeniably cool….
(15) DRAGON APATHY. Declan Finn complains that no one wants to talk about the Dragon Awards on his blog, in “Emerging Dragons”.
…But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I’m not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I’ve done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.
With the exception of three or four people who are genuinely trying to have a conversation, the authors don’t even read the post. Literally. Two years ago, when I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list … and they didn’t realize they were already on it.
It was worse last year when I said “We’re not playing this game,” and people made the same request– proving that they didn’t bother to read the post.
(16) BENEFIT FROM EXPERIENCE. More encouragement to get the vaccine from the Governator. Followed on FB by comments from a legion of anti-vaxxers, naturally.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The monologue on last night’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, starting around the 10:15 mark, has Colbert telling disillusioned Q-anon conspiracy theorists how to fill the void by taking up his own enthusiasm for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
(18) VIDEO OF A MUCH EARLIER DAY. “Steve Martin and Kermit The Frog In Dueling Banjos” on YouTube is a Funny or Die sketch from 2013, and come on, who doesn’t like Kermit The Frog or Steve Martin?
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Rose, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]